Why so different prices?

Tuition fees in public universities in Spain, year 2016/17

Read the full report (in Spanish)

Authors: Oriol Arcas, Carme Peñas and Vera Sacristán
Collaborators: Albert Corominas
Edition: Oriol Arcas

Executive Summary

In this study we analyze the tuition fees for bachelor, master and doctorate degrees in Spanish public universities for the academic year 2016/17. We compare the fees among autonomous communities, and we also consider the impact of the nationality of the student, the repetition of enrollments and the academic and management fees.

  • Since the reform adapting the Spanish university studies to the EHEA and the flexibilization of the tuition fees, university enrollment prices in Spain have diverged significantly. For the academic year 2016/17, enrolling in the same studies can cost more than three times in one autonomous community than in another.
  • The criteria and structure of fees widely differ among autonomous communities. This shows a lack of common criteria when defining the level of experimentality of each degree and its associated costs.
  • By areas, humanities studies tend to have the lowest prices, and health sciences studies have the highest ones. The biggest difference in price between the two happens in Catalonia (€ 857 per course), followed by Castilla y León (€ 791 per course) and Aragon (€ 724 per course). In contrast, in Andalusia all studies have the same price.
  • By autonomous community, Catalonia has the highest minimum and maximum bachelor degree prices for first enrollments. They are followed by Madrid and Castilla y León which, along with Catalonia, are the only ones with minimum prices above 1.000 € per year. Galicia is the cheapest community, followed by Extremadura and Cantabria with minimum prices also below 700 €. Andalusia, with a single price of € 757 per year, is below the maximum price of the rest of autonomous communities, which are all above € 800.
  • As for master degrees qualifying to exert a regulated profession in Spain (called habilitating masters), Catalonia (€ 2,470 per course), Castilla y León (€ 1,967 per course) and the Community of Madrid (more than € 1,700 per course) have the highest prices. In particular, the master’s degree that qualifies for the practice of law-related professions at the Carlos III University of Madrid, costs € 4,960 per year. Castilla-La Mancha (between € 728 and € 1,132 per course) and Andalusia (€ 821 per course) are the cheapest autonomous communities to study habilitating master’s degrees.
  • Non-habilitating master’s studies have generally higher and very variate prices. on the highest side stands Catalonia (€ 3,952 per course) and in lowest stands Castilla-La Mancha (between € 728 and € 1,132 per course). Five communities (Asturias, Com. Valenciana, Madrid, Murcia and the Basque Country) regulate for certain masters “exceptional” prices that can reach 13,500 € per year.
  • The overall comparison shows a disparity of fees in first enrollment between € 591 for a degree course in Galicia to € 13,500 for a master course at an exceptional price in the Community of Madrid.
  • Only Castilla – La Mancha charges the same fees at bachelor and master levels (habilitating or not). Recall that equality of fees between bachelor and master degrees is a common practice in most European countries.
  • Special mention should be made to PhD studies. The annual tuition fee for academic tutoring is up to more than 7 times more in the most expensive community (Castilla y León, € 422 per year) than in the cheapest one (Andalusia, € 60 per year). The examination of the PhD thesis can cost more than double (€ 260 in Castilla – La Mancha, € 118 in Galicia).
  • Two more factors increase tuition costs: repeatedly enrolling in a course (which can multiply up to 5 and 6 times the base price) and the student’s origin (some communities apply different tuition fees to students from non-EU countries not resident in Spain).
  • Fees for access exams to university range between € 53 in Castilla – La Mancha and € 192 € in La Rioja. These fees do not only vary between communities, but also, in some cases, according to the number of exams taken on different subjects. Likewise, most of the communities charge for issuing diplomas in different ways depending on the level of studies, although three of them (Catalonia, Extremadura, Murcia) set a single fee for issuing degrees. The amounts range from € 102 (Castilla-La Mancha, bachelor) to € 281 (Navarra, doctorate).
  • Academic and management fees regulated by decree are very different between communities in number, type and amount. Some communities have introduced fees that are mandatory, which translates into increases in de facto tuition fees. Catalonia is the community that stipulates more fees in its tuition fees decree, and the Balearics Islands the least.
  • In general, prices and criteria for their establishment are not coherent between autonomous communities, do not have apparent justification – explained in the fees decrees – and, in some cases, do not comply with the norms dictated by the laws.
Categories: Report


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